Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The corporate ladder.......and the music business. Some observations from a professional in the no-collar work force.

If you're like me, you play music.  You may even be lucky enough to make a living with your music.  I became one of those lucky few about a year and a half ago, and not a day goes by that I am not completely grateful for how I pay my bills.  Because I am able to make a living...a modest living, but a living nonetheless....I have had the chance to travel to some awesome places, play some awesome shows, spend time with awesome people, and overall just have an awesome time.  I have noticed, though, that professional music (ESPECIALLY that which exists in Nashville....) can have some subtle negative effects.

Let's explore.

One of the draws to professional music for most people...myself that it is an alternative to the white collar world of the desk jockey.  The world of a desk jockey, in our eyes, is a world in which colors are duller.  The white collar, or corporate, folks are always looking for the NEXT thing...the next promotion, the next raise, the next ____________.

I have some startling news.  Professional music can be strikingly similar....

In this corner.....desk jockeys.                In this corner....musicians
1.  Promotion                                            The Artist Gig
2.  Corner Office                                       The Major Label Artist Gig
3.  Quarterly Bonus                                   Endorsement Deals
4.  Sucking up to the boss                         Sucking up to people who could get you work
5.  Shameless Self Promotion                   Shameless Self Promotion....

Alright.  So those are just a few.  It is really quite amazing how similar the "corporate ladder" is to the world of Nashville music.  Maybe you don't have the "grass is always greener" attitude.  But I do.  And it's driving me crazy.  So if you share this attitude...let's try this.  Let's not worry about the guy that "isn't as good as you" who has the big gig.  Let's not worry that the guy who "isn't as good as you" got his guitar at cost.  Let's just be happy that we get to play music, pay our bills, and eat close to 3 meals a day. 


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Perfection, or a fraction thereof

I've been somewhat obsessed with perfection lately.  Perfection can wreak havoc on honesty.  And honesty is essential to great art.  (Or average art...or even below average art...okay honesty is just essential.)

There is a lot of talk these days about the direction of country music.  A LOT of talk.  There's been name calling.  There's been tight pants.  There's been lip synching.  It has all the elements of a middle school talent show.  What the country music genre doesn't have, though, is honesty.  I don't really care who's fault it is.  Blame the record label executives, blame the songwriters, blame the fans.  You choose.  I have no problem with those people.  I have a problem with myself.  As a professional in this industry, I have found myself more and more OBSESSED with perfection.  Every note has to be perfect, every song has to be perfect, and everything has to be PERFECT.

And here's the problem with soon as I say something is "perfect" or "imperfect," I'm judging it based on how I think it will be received.

So let's start making art again.  Just write the song.  Just play the notes.  Just do what you love.  That's what I'm gonna do.  Who cares how our art is received.  I've always wondered why music from the 1500s is still regarded as the best of all time.  We've had over 500 years to improve ourselves...are we not improving because we are not as honest?

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Bottom Line

Finances.  Art.  Entrepreneurship.  They do not go hand in hand.  Even if they did, that would be three hand-holds going on and it would still be weird. 

After my first year as a self-employed musician, I have learned a little about a lot.  Here is my greatest lesson so far:  I will never be able to control my top line.  (For those of you who aren't business savy, "top line" refers to income, cash, dough, benjamins, etc...)  While I can certainly take steps to market myself and my skills, there will never be any sort of guaranteed income.  No steady paycheck.  No amount I can count on from year to year.  There will be good years.  There will be bad years.

My advice to you, then, is to be born into a rich family.  If that isn't possible, here's the next best thing:  Control your BOTTOM LINE.  If you are a musician or of another trade and are considering the step into self employment, there is no greater advice than to control your expenses.  Being able to live a year on less than what most people make in half of that time has proven to give me a jump start in the early phase of my music "career".  It's allowed me the freedom to go on gig runs with short notice, try new things with music, and produce low budget projects.  If I had run out of money, I'd be working at Starbucks and none of these things would have happened.  I would be getting free espresso, though, so I'd probably be able to play that Eddie Van Halen solo that's been taunting me....

I know you need that new Tele.  I know you need that new Matchless Amp.  But trust me.  You need to eat for the next year.  Let's not be starving artists anymore. 

I hope you have learned.